Heikki Kovalainen has played down expectations ahead of his first ever grand prix.
The Finnish rookie has replaced twice world champion Fernando Alonso at Renault, but he refused to name himself as a certain contender for victory when 2007 kicks off in March.
“I am not thinking of going to Melbourne and getting pole and winning,” Kovalainen, 25, said at the launch of the R27 in Amsterdam.
“I just want to do clean laps and do the maximum. I want to score points and finish the race, first of all.
“We want to be regularly on the podium toward the end of the season. But who knows — it could happen early.”
Team boss Flavio Briatore admitted that Alonso’s defection to McLaren is a blow, and the Spanish newspaper ‘Marca’ observed at the launch that the words ‘Fernando’ or ‘Alonso’ were mentioned 30 times.
Briatore even tripped up saying: “We will give Fernan… Fisichella and Heikki a good car to fight for podiums.”
He later added: “If we can’t have Alonso, Kovalainen is our next choice.”
Briatore also said Giancarlo Fisichella is in his opinion “the sixth or seventh best driver” in formula one.